Police arrest suspects months after beard-cutting attack on Haredi lawmaker

Two men taken into custody in connection with September assault on United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush

MK Meir Porush attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Meir Porush attends a Knesset Arrangements Committee meeting in Jerusalem on June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Police said Wednesday that it had arrested two suspects over an attack against an ultra-Orthodox member of Knesset in which an attempt was made to cut his beard.

Police announced that two men were arrested this week in connection with the September assault of MK Meir Porush of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party. The first, an 18-year-old from Safed, was detained at the beginning of the week, and the second, a Jerusalem resident in his 40s, was caught Tuesday evening, police said.

Both suspects, who were remanded into custody, are also suspected of involvement in several other beard-cutting incidents. Police are said to believe that the young suspect was paid by the older suspect to carry out the attack. According to the Ynet news website, Porush was targeted after he came out in support of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the attack, two assailants cornered Porush, 66, as he left his home in Jerusalem. The two men, both reportedly in ultra-Orthodox garb, rode up to the lawmaker on electric scooters.

One of the men approached the Knesset member and asked if he was Porush, whereupon he confirmed his identity. The attacker then tried to cut his beard, but Porush was able to push him away, and he did not require medical treatment.

A week after the attack, Porush told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, that he was still worried for his safety.

A hole in the suit of United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush made by an attacker who attempted to cut his beard on September 13, 2021. (Courtesy)

“I’m afraid,” he said. “I’m still afraid. It was not a simple thing… They came at me with scissors,” he recounted. “My suit still has a hole from the scissors. I managed to push the man away and he didn’t reach my beard, but if the scissors had gone into my eye?”

Porush said that one of the men “took out scissors from somewhere and came to cut my beard. It was awful. He didn’t say anything, he just came at me. I’m a big guy and I succeeded in pushing him away, but he didn’t flinch and he even managed to grab my beard.”

The UTJ lawmaker said he believes the man was “scared off by screams. I screamed with all my might and I saw he was afraid. Then he got back on his electric scooter and fled.”

Beard-cutting is seen as a particularly humiliating and demeaning attack on ultra-Orthodox men, many of whom maintain long beards for religious reasons. During the Holocaust, Nazi soldiers would humiliate Jewish men by roughly cutting off their beards in public.

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